Wednesday, August 27, 2014

A great day for business as usual


In Politics and economics from Reuters for August 25, 2014, I made this observation on the stock market.
If one of my readers had told me a year and a half ago that the S&P 500 would break 2,000, I wouldn't have believed them.  I would have been sure that the market would have topped out by now.  By the way, the markets went up today.  No profit taking yet.
Here's the story from Reuters: S&P 500 scores first close above 2,000; data helps By Chuck Mikolajczak in NEW YORK on Tue Aug 26, 2014 4:48pm EDT.
(Reuters) - U.S. stocks edged higher on Tuesday to lift the S&P 500 just a hair above the 2,000 mark, its first close above that milestone, after data that pointed to a brighter future for the economy.

Energy shares, which closely track the pace of growth, led the day's gain. The S&P energy index rose 0.5 percent and ranked as the best performer of the 10 major S&P sectors.

The S&P 500 hit an intraday high of 2,005.04, climbing above the 2,000 mark for the second straight day. On Monday, though, the benchmark could not hold on to that mark and ended at 1,997.92. With Tuesday's move, both the Dow and the S&P 500 have risen in 10 of the past 13 sessions, while the Nasdaq is up for 11 of the past 13 sessions.
...
The Dow Jones industrial average rose 29.83 points or 0.17 percent, to end at 17,106.70. The S&P 500 gained 2.10 points or 0.11 percent, to close at 2,000.02, a record high. The Nasdaq Composite added 13.29 points or 0.29 percent, to finish at 4,570.64.

The Dow industrials had touched a record intraday high of 17,153.80 during Tuesday's session.
Two stories, one definitely good news and the other mixed depending on which side of the Atlantic one one lives, helped fuel this rally.  Follow over the jump for them.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Politics and economics from Reuters for August 25, 2014


I wasn't done with the relevant stories from last night's Overnight News Digest: Death, Disaster, Good news for business, and the Emmys on Daily Kos with Emmy Awards update from Reuters and War, Death, and Destruction from Reuters for August 25, 2014.  I have one more themed entry left, all about economics and politics, including some business news that intersects politics and technology.

I'll begin with an article in the intersection between politics and economics, which was the third most read story on Reuters last night.

France's Hollande ejects rebel minister Montebourg from cabinet
By Ingrid Melander and Alexandria Sage
PARIS Mon Aug 25, 2014 7:45pm EDT
(Reuters) - French President Francois Hollande on Monday called for a cabinet reshuffle, evicting from his government rebel leftist ministers who had argued for an economic policy U-turn away from budgetary rigor.

The surprise move - which risks deepening the confrontation between Hollande and more left-wing lawmakers - came a day after outspoken Economy Minister Arnaud Montebourg attacked euro zone powerhouse Germany for ruining the region's economy with what he called an "obsession" with economic austerity.

Montebourg did not wait for Prime Minister Manuel Valls to announce a new cabinet, which he is scheduled to do on Tuesday, before stepping up his attacks and declaring he and two other left-wing ministers would not seek roles in it.
I'm with the rebels--austerity is a bad idea.  There is a reason why I have an anti-austerity label on this blog.

Next, the fourth most read article on Reuters last night, which lies at the intersection of business and politics, specifically tax law.

Investors cheer Burger King-Tim Hortons 'combo deal'
By Euan Rocha and Solarina Ho
TORONTO Mon Aug 25, 2014 5:27pm EDT
(Reuters) - Investors in Burger King Worldwide Inc and Tim Hortons Inc applauded news of a potential merger between the two fast food chains, seeing both tax savings and strategic rationale for a combination.

The two companies confirmed late on Sunday that Burger King is in talks to acquire the Canadian coffee and doughnut chain, and that the combined entity would be based in Canada. Shares of Tim Hortons jumped 18.9 percent to close at $74.72 on the New York Stock Exchange on Monday, while shares of Burger King, which is majority owned by investment firm 3G Capital, rose 19.5 percent to $32.40.

Investors and tax experts said the main reason for Burger King to move its domicile to Canada is to avoid having to pay double taxation on profits earned abroad, as the company would have to do if it remained in the United States.
Investors and corporations may love this idea, but I'm pretty sure rank-and-file Americans do not.  It might be enough to make me give up Burger King.  As for Tim Hortons, well, they never were a U.S. company.

Follow over the fold for articles on the stock market setting another record high, Amazon buying Twitch, and today's primary elections.

War, Death, and Destruction from Reuters for August 25, 2014


I titled last night's news summary on Daily Kos Overnight News Digest: Death, Disaster, Good news for business, and the Emmys.  I already passed along the Emmy Awards update from Reuters and even that couldn't escape the specter of Death with the Robin Williams tribute, so it's time for the death and destruction.

First, stories about three of the four topics that Kunstler wrote about in this week's missive of DOOM, Chill Winds, Ukraine, ISIS, and Israel-Gaza.

Slim chance of progress as Russian and Ukrainian leaders meet
By Alexei Anishchuk
MINSK Mon Aug 25, 2014 5:16pm EDT
(Reuters) - Divided by mistrust and mutual recriminations, the Russian and Ukrainian leaders will hold rare talks on Tuesday that offer only a slim hope of progress towards ending five months of separatist war in Ukraine.

Since Vladimir Putin and Petro Poroshenko last met on June 6 in France, Ukraine has turned the tide of the conflict and largely encircled pro-Russian rebels holding out in two cities in the east of the former Soviet republic.

But the diplomatic crisis has only deepened, especially since the downing of a Malaysian airliner over rebel-held territory last month with the loss of 298 lives.
This was the most read story on Reuters last night.  My Ukrainian and Russian readers can make of it what they will.  And, yes, I have lots of readers from both countries.  Ukraine and Russia are top two non-U.S. sources of readers for the blog this month, and Russia is the largest foreign portion of the audience in the history of the blog; Ukraine is in eighth, and will pass France for seventh at current rates in a few months.

Follow over the jump for the stories about war, death, and destruction from Iraq, Gaza, Congo, and elsewhere that made headlines last night.

Emmy Awards update from Reuters


I promised more about tonight's awards in 'Orange is the New Black' and 'Cosmos' already big Emmy winners.  I'll follow through with that promise later.  Right now, I have two updates from Reuters on the ceremony that I've included in tonight's Overnight News Digest on Daily Kos.

'Fargo,' 'Normal Heart' win Emmys for TV miniseries, movie
By Mary Milliken and Eric Kelsey
LOS ANGELES Mon Aug 25, 2014 11:22pm EDT
(Reuters) - "Fargo," the TV re-imagining of the Coen brothers' cult film, won best miniseries at the Primetime Emmy Awards on Monday, while HBO's "The Normal Heart" earned best TV movie honors for its depiction of the early fight against AIDS.

"Fargo" gave FX Networks its first Emmy for a program, but actors from the critically acclaimed miniseries lost out on awards despite being heavy favorites, especially lead actor Billy Bob Thornton.

"Who else can I thank but Joel and Ethan Coen, who don't watch the Emmys," said "Fargo" creator Noah Hawley of the directors of the 1996 Oscar-winning film who granted him creative freedom to recreate the snowy psychological thriller.
In cosmic tribute, Emmys bid adieu to Robin Williams
Reporting by Eric Kelsey and Piya Sinha-Roy; Editing by Mary Milliken and Ken Wills
LOS ANGELES Mon Aug 25, 2014 11:09pm EDT
(Reuters) - With a lump in his throat and a somber tremble in his voice, actor Billy Crystal paid a cosmic tribute to Robin Williams at the Primetime Emmy Awards on Monday, two weeks after the comedian died in an apparent suicide.

Crystal, a longtime friend of Williams who rose to fame in the same 1970s comedy circuit, remembered the madcap performer as "the brightest star in a comedy galaxy".

"It is very hard to talk about him in the past because he was so present in our lives," said Crystal.
And that's it for tonight's update.  Stay tuned for more later.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Examiner.com--a tale of two conventions

I wrote two articles for Examiner.com about this weekend's elections.  First, Michigan Republicans retain incumbents at 2014 convention.
The specter of previous conventions hung over last Saturday's Michigan Republican State Convention, where an incumbent office-holder such as Lieutenant Governor Brian Calley of Portland losing his position seemed like a distinct possibility.  History was on the side of an upset.

In 2010, incumbent Michigan State University Trustee Don Nugent failed to be re-nominated at that year's convention.  Incumbents were turned out twice at conventions in 2012.  First, State Representative Dave Agema replaced Saul Anuzis as Michigan's representative to the Republican National Committee.  Then, incumbent State Board of Education Member Nancy Danhof lost her seat at the 2012 convention.  Finally, the 2013 convention featured a leadership struggle in which Michigan GOP Chair Bobby Schostak narrowly retained his office against a Tea Party insurgency led by Todd Courser.

Nothing like that came to pass at this year's convention, as Calley's rival Wes Nakagiri of Hartland moved to have Calley re-nominated for Lieutenant Governor by unanimous acclamation, so that the Michigan Republicans can “unite and defeat the Democrats” as quoted by the Detroit Free Press.  All the other incumbent office holders chosen at the convention from Attorney General and Secretary of State to Justice of the Michigan Supreme Court were also renominated unanimously.
For the first time this decade, the GOP convention didn't include a successful RINO hunt.  Darn.

The second was Michigan Democrats nominate candidates at 2014 convention.
The Michigan Democratic Party ended their two-day convention in Lansing on a high note after a first day that evoked one of Will Rogers' best remembered sayings about politics; he was not a member of any organized political party, he was a Democrat.

On Sunday, all of the candidates nominated at the convention, from Lieutenant Governor down to Supreme Court Justice, ran unopposed and were approved unanimously.

In contrast, Saturday's proceedings saw a protest of one Supreme Court Justice over his views on reproductive choice as well as a contested vote for Wayne State University Governor and a delayed and poorly attended vote for State Board of Education.
The news here was that there was an attempt to thwart the nomination of a judge whose credentials as a social liberal were suspect at the same time the party nominated someone known for defending reproductive rights, Lisa Brown.  In the end, the party proved to be a big enough tent for both of them.

Speaking of big tents, what do you see in this photo of the Democratic nominees from Sunday?


What about this analogous picture of the Republican nominees on Saturday?


I'll leave the answers as an exercise for the reader.

Ebola news from The Archdruid, Daily Kos, and campuses on the campaign trail


Greer the Archdruid made this observation in Heading Toward The Sidewalk.
I suspect that most of my readers have been paying at least some attention to the Ebola epidemic now spreading across West Africa. Over the last week, the World Health Organization has revealed that official statistics on the epidemic’s toll are significantly understated, the main nongovernmental organization fighting Ebola has admitted that the situation is out of anyone’s control, and a series of events neatly poised between absurdity and horror—a riot in one of Monrovia’s poorest slums directed at an emergency quarantine facility, in which looters made off with linens and bedding contaminated with the Ebola virus, and quarantined patients vanished into the crowd—may shortly plunge Liberia into scenes of a kind not witnessed since the heyday of the Black Death. The possibility that this outbreak may become a global pandemic, while still small, can no longer be dismissed out of hand.
I couldn't resist responding and promoting one of my entries.
As for the Ebola outbreak becoming a top story, I mentioned in a comment here that it looked concerning weeks ago.  Honestly, Ebola scares me.  I first read about it in "The Hot Zone," the very first chapter of which described the death of an Ebola patient on a plane back to the U.S.  Stephen King described that story as "the scariest thing he'd ever read--and then it got worse."  Fortunately, it's not an immediate threat to people in the developed world.  That's small comfort to the people in west Africa, who are in immediate and growing danger.
That got a direct response from Gwaiharad.
@Pinku-Sensei: I'm not at all surprised that Ebola's become a top news story. After all, Stephen King's right. Ebola is really scary stuff. And media companies thrive on selling fear.
Media companies aren't alone.  Three universities whose press releases I quoted in Overnight News Digest: Science Saturday (Shark Week) and Overnight News Digest: Science Saturday (Bardarbunga eruption) have also been capitalizing on the outbreak, which threatens to become an epidemic, if not a pandemic.  Follow over the jump for them, as well as a frightening diary from Daily Kos.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

'Orange is the New Black' and 'Cosmos' already big Emmy winners


Last year, I posted three entries about the Prime Time Emmy Awards: Politics and fantasy at the Emmy Awards: Dramas, Funny politicians and scientists on television, and Politics, funny and dramatic, and horror in miniseries and variety shows.  I might repeat that in advance of tomorrow night's awards show, but first I'm going to write about those shows and actors that already received their awards a week ago Saturday.  CNN has the story in HBO, 'SNL,' 'Orange' win Emmys, beginning with what they think is important.
"Orange Is the New Black," "True Detective" and "Cosmos" picked up Emmys as TV's awards season began, while -- appropriately -- "Saturday Night Live" added to its four-decade-long haul with five more honors at the Creative Arts Emmys.

HBO won the most awards of any network, with 15. The cable channel is a division of Time Warner, as is CNN.
In keeping with my interest in Crime and injustice among the Oscar nominees, I found "Orange is the New Black" great entertainment, despite the grim setting.  My wife and I found that we enjoyed far more than the second season of "House of Cards," which made us feel dirty (It's too difficult to root for that scum Frank Underwood, as much as I like Kevin Spacey, but more on that later).  It has an outstanding ensemble cast, one of whom won her category.
Uzo Aduba, who plays "Crazy Eyes" Warren in "Orange Is the New Black," won for guest actress in a comedy series.
She was up against two other actresses from the series, Natasha Lyonne as Nicky Nichols and Laverne Cox as Sophia Burset, which means that she had a clear win over two other people who could have split the vote and handed it over to Tina Fey or Melissa McCarthy for their stints as host of Saturday Night Live or Joan Cusack on Shameless.  I was enough that Jimmy Fallon won for hosting SNL.  However, the ensemble can take indirect credit for their strength, as the show won Best Casting for a Comedy.  It was well deserved, something I'll say more about in a future post about comedies.

ON the subject of crime, HBO's "True Detective" was and still is up for a number of awards and won several at the early awards.
HBO's "True Detective," which earned eight nominations, received four awards, including wins for makeup and credit design.
I'll have more to say about this show when I cover the nominees for Drama.

Enough of crime.  Follow over the jump for shows about science and food, along with the theme song of one series I listed in the title that also won an award.

The science of tear gas from Discovery News


Bardarbunga erupts, maybe was the topic I picked as last night's top story for Overnight News Digest: Science Saturday at Daily Kos, but it wasn't the one that got the most attention from the readers.  Instead, it was this video from Discovery News: How Tear Gas Affects Your Body.

The use of tear gas on crowds by police in Ferguson, Missouri has made recent headlines. SourceFed’s Reina Scully explains what tear gas does to your body and how treatment works after tear gas exposure.
That spawned two threads.  The first thread was about how using tear gas would a violation of the laws of war, but it's OK to use on your own population for riot control, while the second was about how to protect oneself from tear gas.  I'd reproduce them, except that in the spirit of a picture being worth 1000 words, I posted the image from Occupy Wall Street instead.  The only difference was that the person starting the second thread recommended Milk of Magnesia instead of Maalox.  Both threads combined had 12 comments.  The entire diary only received 30 comments, so tear gas was the subject of 40% of the comments.  Looks like I hit a nerve, just like I did when I posted The science of sarin gas from Discovery News.

I might have more about the issues raised by Ferguson later this week, after my Sunday entertainment entry and something about the Ebola epidemic.  Stay tuned.

Bardarbunga erupts, maybe


Tonight's top story in my Overnight News Digest: Science Saturday at Daily Kos is Bardarbunga eruption, or at least what most people think is one.  Take it away, LiveScience!

Subglacial Eruption Begins at Iceland's Bardarbunga Volcano (Updated)
By Becky Oskin, Senior Writer
August 23, 2014 01:25pm ET
One week after an earthquake swarm first warned of magma on the rise, a volcanic eruption has started near Iceland's Barðarbunga volcano, the Icelandic Met Office announced today (Aug. 23).

The small-scale eruption is taking place northeast of Barðarbunga, underneath the Dyngjujökull glacier. Scientists estimate 492 to 1,312 feet of ice (150 to 400 meters) covers the emerging lava, the Met Office said in a statement. Even though no one can see the eruption, seismic signals indicate that ice is flashing into steam. This suggests lava has broken through to the surface, beneath the glacier.

Update at 9:30 p.m. ET: Volcano experts in Iceland are not convinced that an eruption is underway. Earthquakes continue, including a magnitude-5.3 this evening, but the tremors that signaled steam blasts from lava have decreased, the Met Office said. Nor is meltwater draining from the glacier. "Presently there are no signs of ongoing volcanic activity," the Met Office said in an update. "The aviation color code for the Barðarbunga volcano remains red as an imminent eruption can not be excluded."
Several diaries on Daily Kos also covered the eruption, including This week in science: fire and ice-land by DarkSyde, Bárðarbunga: Eruption! by Rei, and Code Red: Bárðarbunga Volcano Erupts? Updated M5.3 Quake Confirmed, Largest Quake Yet by FishOutofWater.  In addition, Vox asks Is Iceland's volcano erupting? Scientists are still waiting to see.  The event has attracted a lot of attention, so stay tuned for further developments.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Shark attacks for Shark Week 2014


Last week was Shark Week, even on Daily Kos.  Here are the two stories I received about the Discovery Channel promotional event that I used as the lead stories last week.

First, Mary Landers of Savannah Now reported Shark-bitten turtle rescued on Ossabaw.
This loggerhead's story is one of bad luck turned good.

First the bad: She was bitten by a shark. That's clear from the telltale semi-lunar chunk missing from her shell behind her right front leg, said naturalist John "Crawfish" Crawford.

A shark bite is a bit unusual for a big girl like Phoenix, an adult sea turtle who weighs in at 190 pounds. Sharks aren't known to be discriminating diners, but Georgia's adult loggerheads are too large and spend too much time feeding on the ocean floor to be much of a target for these predators, said Mark Dodd, a Department of Natural Resources wildlife biologist and the state's sea turtle coordinator.
Next, Tanya Lewis of LiveScience asked Shark Attack … In a Lake?!
The idea of a shark attacking someone in the ocean is scary enough, but this week, a 7-year-old boy was bitten by one of these fearsome fish in a lake.

The boy was swimming in Lake Pontchartrain in Louisiana, when something bumped into him in the water and chomped down on his foot, USA Today reported. The bite's appearance suggests it was probably a bull shark measuring about 5 feet (1.5 meters) long, experts say. The boy is expected to recover from the incident.
I figured it would be a bull shark. I mentioned it as one species of shark most likely to venture into freshwater to my biodiversity class this summer.  If I remember this story, I can give it as an example to my biodiversity students next summer.

That's it for this year's Shark Week.  It's less attention than I paid to it last year, when I posted A week of sharks, hurricanes, and geeks.  I'm OK with that.